By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) It was after a session of lounging in one of the 10 or so pools at the Hard Rock Punta Cana saturating my Irish skin with SPF 5000 and several of some sweet concoction called Miami Vice and having no chance with the beautiful ladies sunning themselves that I walked back to my hotel room and saw a message on my phone. “67011: BREAKING: Derrick Rose leaves Bulls game with apparent knee injury. More details to come.”
Sigh.I was in the Dominican Republic for a destination wedding and had planned on unplugging from all things Chicago for a few days, leaving my phone turned on in case of emergency and confining it to the table next to the bed. The Rose knee injury against the Philadelphia 76ers qualified as an emergency, and I navigated frantically through Spanish language TV stations trying to get updates on Rose’s condition (I sure as hell wasn’t going to get charged for using the Internet on my phone in a foreign country), until 67011 texted me the horrible verdict about a torn ACL.
Being the bearer of bad news for everyone else attending the wedding was no fun, especially since it was most people’s first night down there. The consensus response from most of my friends there was disappointment that the Miami Heat were now going to have such an easy road to the NBA Finals.
I get the Heat hate, even though I don’t share it to the degree that most Bulls fans and seemingly most NBA fans outside of Miami do. I understand why it’s focused on Lebron James, poster child for what fans believe is the antithesis of working hard and avoiding the easy road to accomplishment. (As though since he signed with Miami he’s been spending all his days in swim trunks on South Beach just assuming victories will come naturally.)
My distaste for Lebron has waned this season. The guy genuinely feels bad for the way he left Cleveland, and I believe he made the Miami decision because he wants to win period and not because he wants to win easy. He’s also not a bad person, as much as his detractors wish he was. People want him to fully embrace the villain narrative, and unfortunately for them he’s more of an insanely talented big kid who has never experienced public backlash in his life until these past two seasons than an evil genius hell-bent on pissing in everyone’s cornflakes.
It’s actually become much easier for me to dislike Dwyane Wade more so with his constant whining and pained looks at refs on every play and Rajon Rondo telling the public that he has an easier time creating points while Wade is hanging back complaining about some injustice. I’m no Heat fan, but I have been rooting for them in these playoffs.
“What?! Are you crazy?! You’re just like all the rest of the Heat lovers at The Score!” Okay, take it easy and go back to playing with your bubble wrap.
From the start of the 2010-11 season, the biggest story in the Eastern Conference was the inevitable playoff rematch between the Bulls and Heat. Round 2 of the guys in the white hats vs. the black hats. Nothing else really mattered. Both would make the playoffs, probably be the 1 and 2 seeds, and would clash in the Eastern Conference Finals. Most of the story had already been written.
The Rose injury blew all that up, of course, and we really don’t need to relive the aftermath between then and now. But, again, Bulls fans and most hoops fans nationwide became resigned to Heat dominance and began to analyze whether anyone in the West could stop them.
But the Boston Celtics have thrown a wrench in those assumptions, too. The too old, too slow guys in the green hats all of a sudden find themselves in the driver seat, up 3-2 on Miami, and headed home to close out the series, much to the chagrin of so many “experts.”
Heat haters, Bulls fans in particular, are loudly cheering on the Celtics. I’ve noticed it all over social media, listened to it in bars, heard idiots clap after every single Boston bucket.
And I don’t get it.
I seem to recall prior to The Decision by Lebron that the Boston Celtics were the most reviled team in Chicago basketball circles. Bulls fans hated all the demonstrative stuff from Kevin Garnett and Rondo’s weird face. The ingrained East Coast hatred was palpable.
Oh, but now the Celtics are the lesser of two evils, and blood thirsty sports fans rarely have a problem rooting for a team they hate slightly less.
Not me this time.
First of all, I think the Heat vs. either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs offers the better Finals matchup, both on a pure basketball level and for selfish reasons of possibly having to write about Lebron and Co. being that much closer to a validating trophy.
Mostly, though, with every Celtics victory over Miami, the Rose ACL injury hurts this Bulls fan that much more. The “what ifs” become so much bigger and painful.
If the Celtics, a team most really didn’t consider a threat to win the East going in to these playoffs, could knock off the mighty Heat, imagine what the Bulls could have done. Few would argue that Boston is better than a healthy Bulls team.
And now that the Heat are seeming to fold mentally like many hoped they would and Eric Spoelstra is being clowned by Doc Rivers (and one would have to assume by Greg Popovich… maybe not Scott Brooks), my basketball heart aches for what could have been for a Bulls team that had a great shot of being a champion.
I don’t seem to get that vibe from most Bulls fans, though. Maybe it’s denial. Maybe it’s Heat schadenfreude to keep from crying over the Bulls. Maybe fans too soon forget what Derrick Rose was on the cusp of leading his team to.
I haven’t forgotten. Now I feel like I’m back at the pool, sun burned, striking out, and sipping a not-so-sweet Miami Vice.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.